In 1971, President Richard Nixon declared drug users public enemy number one. Young, white, middle-class kids were openly using recreational drugs, and long-held stigmas about drug use were shrinking, especially in the Bay Area. Public perception typically connected drugs with protest culture and the social rebellion of the ’60s and ’70s. To then-president Richard Nixon, and many others, it was a sign of society coming apart at the seams.
PRESIDENT RICHARD NIXON: We must wage total war on what I have called public enemy number one: the problem of dangerous drugs.
So Nixon began a grand campaign to strike back. He wanted nothing less than a full-scale “war on drugs” that would be waged against the dealers and users of drugs at home, as well as the cultivators and suppliers abroad. It would be carried out through aggressive policing and military intervention. And it would set a trend for decades to come.
PRESIDENT NIXON: We’ve turned the corner on drug addiction in the United States. Drug addiction is under control.
REPORTER: The president allocated another $462 million for the drug war in 1974, almost eight times the amount spent four years earlier.
ABC NEWS REPORTER: In Washington today President Reagan signed into law a new anti-drug bill passed in the last days of an election year Congress. It provides an additional $2.8 billion to the war against drugs…
PRESIDENT RONALD REAGAN: It’s time, as Nancy said, to just say “no” to drugs.
PRESIDENT GEORGE H. W. BUSH: It is imperative to put more resources into our fight, so I am asking Congress to put $12.7 billion to wage this war on drugs. If Congress approves my request, funding for the war on drugs will have increased by 93% to nearly double the rate just three years ago when I took office.
PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON: If we ever expect to reduce crime and violence in our country to the low level that would make it the exception rather than the rule, we have to reduce the drug problem. We know it is a difficult battle. We know that overall drug use and crime are down in all segments of society but one: young people. And that makes the battle more difficult and more important.
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Drugs help supply the deadly work of terrorists, that’s so important for people of our country to understand … which is why the budget I submitted to Congress calls for $19 billion to fight drug use.
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